No bread is an island

...entire of itself. (With apologies to John Donne!)
I live and breathe breadmaking. I’m an evangelist who would like everyone to make his or her own bread. I want to demystify breadmaking and show it as the easy everyday craft that it is. To this end I endeavour to make my recipes as simple and as foolproof as I possibly can.

I call my blog 'No bread is an island' because every bread is connected to another bread. So a spicy fruit bun with a cross on top is a hot cross bun. This fruit dough will also make a fruit loaf - or Chelsea buns or a Swedish tea ring...
I'm also a vegan, so I have lots of vegan recipes on here - and I'm adding more all the time.

Friday, 16 June 2017


I'm a member of an informal discussion group, meeting monthly. Whoever hosts decides the topic to be discussed.

Yesterday we met at mine - and I chose veganism, with an emphasis on health, but necessarily touching on animal welfare and global warming.

Over the last few weeks, I've been sending them links and references on the subject, including the film Cowspiracy.

I began the session intending to show them the first 10 minutes of Michael Greger's 'How not to die' video. I thought I'd better cut it short when Michael Greger had finished with the subject of halting and reversing CAD, but the group wanted to carry on watching. We watched a further 10 minutes, on the subject of cancer, then we had a discussion on what we'd seen and heard. They were very receptive, much to my surprise. I was helped by one of the group who had been reading my copy of 'How not to die', and several times read pertinent passages from it. He made a particular point of telling the group that the science was sound - there were 135 pages of references at the end of the book.

After an hour or so, I gave them coffee, plus a selection of about a dozen vegan goodies which I'd prepared - Fry's colony; 2 types of hard cheese (including Vegusto); cream cheese; homemade pizza and breadsticks; my Thai chilli non carne; nutritional yeast; seitan; Mrs Crimble's stem ginger cake; Booja Booja chocolate ice cream; and some dark chocolate. My message was that you don't have to be deprived on a vegan diet.

Then we had a further half an hour of discussion - I was asked to relate my own story, so I told them how and why I became vegan, including the positive effects this had on my own health - and we wrapped it up.

One of the group took us all by surprise by saying that he intended to give a vegan diet a go for a fortnight! He very much related to my story of how my sinuses had dried up after giving up dairy - he not only had a constant nasal drip, but he had asthma as well. So we'll see how well he does.
The friend who'd borrowed my copy of the book, and another friend were concerned that their main stumbling block would be how their wives would react. I said that if they bought some vegan goodies, the mere fact that they were in the house would make it easier to begin the process of transitioning. Something I'm working on myself.
Another member of the group emailed me to say, "Brilliant morning. Lots to consider now for a life change." After the discussion, he'd confided in me that he hadn't been looking forward to the morning, expecting simply a boring chat about veganism!

So, 4 out of 5 ain't bad! It's certainly the best reaction to my spreading the  word that I've had in 14 years!

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

BREADMAKING MADE EASY Wellington 25/5/17

Mon 6th June 2017
Last session today - here's the group with some of their bread. Over the past 6 weeks together they made around 18 varieties of bread.

Naans, pitta, marzipan and apple tartlets (with dates as an alternative) and a college, tear and share loaf to finish with.

Here's a pic that Dave sent me after missing the last session. He made a small chocolate and banana loaf and turned the other half of the dough into Chelsea buns.

Tuesday 23rd May 2017
Stuffed mushrooms, chocolate and banana bread and loaves. We didn't bake the loaves in the session, instead the students took the dough home and baked it there. Here's a pic that Wendy sent me of her loaf:

Cottage loaf with cuts
And Elaine sent me this:

A tinned loaf

Tuesday 16th May 2017
Fun with jam, sizzlers and Peshwari naan

Saturday, 20 May 2017


Saturday 15th January 2011
This coming Saturday morning I want to conduct an experiment. I want to see if we can get a group of people all making bread at the same time. Beginners and families especially welcome.

I thought 'petit pain au chocolat' because, a) they’re fun to make, and, b) because they’re one of the easiest, most satisfying things you can make. (And because they come with a free French lesson!)

Starting at 10am, I’ll be measuring and mixing the dough, shaping the rolls and putting them to prove. I’ll log each step on here, and put pics on my blog.

This recipe will make 8-10 chocolate rolls.

Here’s the recipe I’ll be following:
200g strong white flour (although you can use plain flour if that’s all you’ve got)
1 dessertspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon yeast (either fresh or dried active yeast)
125ml lukewarm water

8-16 pieces of eating chocolate – any sort you like - depending on how much chocolate you intend to use in each roll
1 teaspoon sugar for a glaze

I’ll endeavour to include every piece of information about the ingredients and the process I can think of, including variations, calorie content, etc, and answer any questions you may have.

When you’ve been making bread for a while, some of the process becomes automatic, so I really have to think about every step of the way from a beginner’s perspective. Don’t hesitate to ask about anything I haven’t fully explained.

For this sort of bread I generally use all white flour. However, you can use 50:50 wholemeal and white (you can use all wholemeal, but this makes for a heavy bread not really suited (IMO) for a pain au chocolat.) Own-brand is fine - the last time I checked Lidl's was cheapest at 75p and Sainsbury's at 95p.

Granulated is absolutely fine. There’s no advantage to be gained by using caster sugar. You could use other types, but I doubt you’d tell the difference.

I generally use fresh - currently 20p for 50g at Sainsbury's (or available from small bakeries - where they make bread on the premises), but I always have a tin of dried active yeast in the fridge (keeps better in there) in case I run out. Available from small bakeries or the bakery counter in large supermarkets, often. Dried active yeast is made by Allinson's and comes in a yellow tin by the flour shelves in supermarkets - currently 64p. It literally keeps for years - in the fridge once opened.

As a general rule, use half as much dried yeast as you would fresh. However, for small amounts such as we’re using, a teaspoon of either will suffice.

Dried active yeast (almost a teaspoon)
Fresh yeast (purchased on 9/12/10 - kept in the fridge in a plastic bag)
Yeast (like bacteria!) needs warmth, moisture, food – and time. Given these four things, it will thrive.

Needs to be approximately blood heat (hand hot, or lukewarm). One third boiling water to two-thirds cold water will give you the right temperature for yeast every time. But always dip your fingers in the water to check.

Good quality eating chocolate is better for this bread – although you can use cooking chocolate if you have some you want to use up.

Shopping list:
1 bag strong bread flour (white) 
Yeast - fresh if you can find it, but pop a tin of dried active yeast in your basket, anyway. Then you always have it in.
Chocolate. Your favourite sort. 
Granulated sugar.

Scales, measuring jug, baking tray, baking parchment (a roll of this lasts for years, since each piece is reusable until it falls apart), cooling rack, pastry brush.

I think that's it for now. I'm sure someone will remind me if I've forgotten anything.

If anyone would like to forgo all this and just make them now - the full recipe is to be found here.

See you Saturday!

It’s up to you how much chocolate you use – a small piece or two pieces joined together. The pieces at the top are from a 100g 70% chocolate bar with only 10 pieces, one of them divided in two.
For a video of the method and techniques we're using - up to dividing the dough, have a look at this 'Sizzler' recipe on YouTube. (However, don't forget, in this recipe we're using sugar and not salt.)

Once the dough is made, it is divided into 8 pieces:

Divided into two...

...and eventually into 8. The larger piece is a quarter of the dough (or 2 eighths) to show you how big the rolls will grow when they've doubled in size. As you can see, I've put various amounts of chocolate on top of the lumps of dough.
Top left I've got 1 whole piece of a large square of chocolate, divided in two and placed one on top of the other.  The one at the bottom is half of one of those pieces as is the one to its right. the rest are either 1 or 2 pieces of an ordinary bar of dark chocolate.
Here I am squidging and pinching the dough together round the chocolate.
Carefully seal any gap, pinching the dough together quite tightly.
Turn the dough over and, using your cupped hand, gently roll it round to smooth it into a pleasing shape. 
When turned over with the seam underneath, the weight of the dough helps keep the seam intact

As you can see, I'm not all that bothered about them all being the same size. The three with the little knobs on are filled with dairy-free chocolate (mine, in other words!). I've put them on used baking parchment to rise (prove), to show that this paper will go in an out of the oven many times before it falls apart. Leave them on your worktop, covered with a tea towel to keep out any draughts. Check them every 15-20 minutes to see if they've risen.
Now they have begun to show a definite rise - the gap between the rolls is a lot less and the dough has smoothed out - it's time to put the oven on. Don't worry about a time limit - this is the time for patience; the bread will rise on your worktop.

Fresh from the oven - and chocolate has escaped from just the one!
Brushed with sugar glaze - this just finishes them off.
Place them on a cooling rack. These rolls are at their best as soon as  they're cool enough to eat. Cut in half they cool quicker. Use either a pair of scissors or a good bread knife  - but don't press down too hard on new bread; let the knife do the work!

Now is the time to sit back, enjoy your pain au chocolat and plan what bread you're going to make next!

Saturday morning - I posted these messages on both the BBC Food board, and the Wildfood board:

At 1004 I posted this:

Okey, dokey, here we go!

Weighed 200g flour and added a dessertspoon of sugar.

Measured 125ml (or grams) of lukewarm water

Stirred in a teaspoon of dried active yeast.

But if you've got fresh yeast, use that instead.

Added to mixing bowl.

Begun to mix together.

At 1020 I posted this:

As I was mixing I had to take a phone call. Picked the phone up with my hand in a plastic bag.

Back to work...

Mix was a bit dry, so I added a bit more water - you're looking for a soft, squishy dough.

Always good to have a little water to hand when mixing.

Kneaded the dough - just flattening and folding - for about 20 kneading actions, by which time the dough had become smooth and all the little bits had disappeared (that's all you're looking for).

Now about to divide the dough into 8, and break the chocolate up into squares.

And at 1037 I posted this on both threads:

All done, now. 

The rolls are proving on the worktop, covered with a tea towel

It was a bit fiddly, since I made the dough a little too sticky.

I found myself using a table knife to lift up each piece of dough off the worktop.

And I forgot to distinguish the two rolls I'd filled with chilli chocolate! 

Anybody out there?

Any questions, any time.

So far I've had one response - from Suffolk, who's taking notes ATM.

At 11.19 I posted:

Bread showing definite signs of rising - just put the oven on at 220C

At 11.36 I posted:

The oven's now up to temperature, but, looking at the rolls I decided they hadn't risen enough.

Once the oven is on I feel an obligation to get them in there as soon as I can.

So, to give them a lift, I decided to give them a blast of heat.

I put them in the oven for 1 minute only, then took them out again.

I'll check them again in 5 minutes, by which time they may well be ready to bake.

At 11.46 I posted:

That's done the trick - in the oven and the timer set for 8 minutes.

They'll need turning round at that time, and need probably another 4 minutes baking.

At 11.52 I posted:

Now's the time to put the kettle on for a cup of tea or coffee with your fresh pain au chocolat - and to make the sugar glaze.

Warm the jug, place one teaspoon of sugar and 2 teaspoons of boiling water in there - whisk for a minute or two, then you're ready.

Leave the rolls on the baking parchment while you glaze them - it's easier to wipe the paper than it is to wipe the cooling rack later on!

At 12.30 (by which time they'd been out about 20 minutes) I posted:

Well, they're out, glazed - and one of them has mysteriously disappeared!

I'll put a pic up of the remaining 7 shortly.

They're not as brown as I'd like - and that's because, using the small top oven, the shelf was down the bottom.

When I checked after 8 minutes, the tops were still very pale. I put the shelf as high as it would go and turned off the bottom element.

After another 5 minutes, the rolls were done, but still not very brown on top, as you'll see.

(I should have said I distinguished what I thought was the chilli chocolate ones with a snip from a pair of scissors.)

Just heard from my wife that I failed miserably in identifying the chilli ones - she's just had one and she hates chilli!

Not as good looking as the last lot - but not bad for all that!
At around 12.15, Sara posted this message on the BBC food board:
Hi Paul. Just taken mine out of the oven and glazed them - they look delish! About to tuck in - Sara and Phil

And a little while later, she posted again:
They were really yummy - we demolished the whole lot!

Which was rather nice!

On the Sunday I heard from LeCreusetFiend:
Just to say I made these this afternoon, and very well they went down too with a nice cup of tea!

Tatihou offered this on Saturday:
I started later than I planned but they are now lurking under a tea-towel, proofing peacefully. The kitchen's a bit cold this afternoon so might take a bit longer than yours.

And came back on Monday to say:
Those I made on Saturday rose well, looked lovely when they were glazed... and didn't last long.

However, one poster didn't fare so well:
To my shame and embarrassment they were an absolute disaster - took hours to rise even a teensy bit and ended up rock hard little stones that smelt like a brewery. I am going to blame the yeast, which was the right sort but had been in the back of a cupboard for several months, and get a new tin and try again next Sunday morning...........

Sunday, 30 April 2017


Hi folks

I received this message from a friend of mine:

I'm sorry but you really need to get off your soap box.”

My initial thought was to reply just to that one person, giving the reasons for my activism - but then I thought, perhaps there are others in my circle thinking the same thing, and I should indeed pull my horns in.

So I feel I need to get my motivations out there.

Just why am I trying to persuade people to adopt a whole food plant-based (WFPB) diet - and indeed go vegan, which means no leather, fur, etc?

There are 3 reasons, in fact, each one of which is sufficient, in my eyes, to encourage someone to go vegan:

Global warming/climate change
Animal welfare
One’s own health

The first is the most important: if we do nothing global warming will overwhelm us. It affects all of our futures, especially those who come after us- our children and grandchildren.

The second is intimately linked to the first - since raising livestock is one of the biggest contributors to climate change. Estimates range from it contributing about 30-50% of global warming emissions (GWE).
But we have to ask ourselves, 'Given the inherent cruelty in the livestock industry, is it moral to consume meat and meat products?'
Listen to the words of Gary Yourofsky:

Some quotes:

The top ten vegan documentary films:

The third reason. Adopting a WFPB diet will immediately start to reverse the heart disease you undoubtedly have ATM:

“Prevent and reverse heart disease”

As a side effect it will lessen your chances of getting any of the other 14 killer diseases suffered in a Western/developed society. If we all did this it would hugely take the pressure off the NHS, and the care system, and extend our healthy lives (meaning we may not live longer, but we will be healthier for longer before falling off this mortal coil.)

When I first became vegan I was much more reticent than I am now, but now that global warming can not be ignored any longer, I feel I have to speak out on that issue. 

And, with the number of land animals slaughtered every year reaching over 50 billion - plus incalculable numbers of sea creatures:

I’ve begun to think that simply being vegan is no longer enough - I need to become more pro-active.

I was a big meat-eater right up until the age of 63, when BSE and CJD were around. It was trying to avoid this disease that caused me to give up eating meat. I was a vegetarian for a couple of years after that - but gradually the blinkers came off and I began to see the cruelty which is a necessary concomitant of the dairy industry. Around this time there was a TV film describing what happens to male chicks at birth. They’re disposed of immediately - by gassing, suffocating or simply being tossed in a grinder. I could no longer eat eggs after that.

Now that I’ve been researching the enormous health benefits that a vegan diet brings, I find it quite ironic that, simply by avoiding harm to animals, my action has resulted in being the best thing I could have done for my own health. And I’m also doing less harm to the planet.

Truly a win-win situation.

There's one other thing - we humans did not develop as meat eaters! We belong to the group of primates - we're great apes - and share all the characteristics of a herbivore with them:

Instead of this simply being a statement of my position, I'd like to have a dialogue. These are my reasons (plus those below) for adopting a WFPB diet and living a vegan lifestyle. Along with Gary Yourofsky, I've thought long and hard about arguments against veganism - and I can't come up with any:

Maybe you can.

1st January 2017
Hi folks

I figure if I’ve got all this info, I should share it with my friends. But please don’t take all this as definitive - I urge you to do your own research.

If you agree with the 97% of scientists that global warming is caused by human activity and is the greatest threat humanity faces, then one simple action that everyone can take - is to go vegan!

Here are 2 important speeches pointing out the inherent cruelty of raising livestock:

The speech YouTube didn’t want you to see:

Here’s James Aspey with a ten minute video, which has been described as the “Best video you’ll ever see.”

“If we aren’t eating animals for our health - and we don’t need to kill and eat them to be healthy, what are we doing this to them for?”

“We have core values of veganism, before we were vegans. We have veganism in our heart. If you agree that causing unnecessary harm to animals is wrong, then by that belief, by your own belief, you are obligated to become vegan. Because anything less than being vegan is going in conflict with your core value of non-violence to animals.” James Aspey

Still not convinced?
The environment:
Your health:

Reversing coronary artery disease (CAD) - Dr Esselstyn

Animal welfare:
Geez, where do I start?


Beef: Not as cruel as the dairy industry, by a long chalk - but they still end up having their lives cut short. (Need citation for this)

“The Perils of Dairy”

“What the Dairy Industry Doesn't Want You to Know”

“What’s wrong with eggs?”